March 31, 2010

The Garden of Grand Forks: UND Writers Conference

from Post Position
by @ 8:04 am

I recently went from presenting at the prestigious and vibrant University of North Dakota Writers Conference to being on a panel at the massive Penny Arcade Expo in Boston.

First things first: The former was “Mind the Gap: Print, New Media, Art,” the 41st UND Writers Conference. Last year at UND the presenters included Charles Baxter and Chuck Klosterman; the year before, Russel Banks, my colleague Junot Díaz, Alice Fulton, and Salman Rushdie.

To provide some perspective, back in 1978 the lineup at this conference was John Ashbery, Amiri Baraka, William Burroughs, Ring Lardner, Tillie Olsen, and Eudora Welty.

March 29, 2010

Fulbright Scholar at UiB in Digital Culture

from Scott Rettberg
by @ 2:27 pm

We will have a Fulbright Scholar position available at UiB Digital Culture in 2011-2012 and in 2012-2013. The position is now advertised on the CIES site. Fulbright scholarships are available to US citizens residing in the US. This position is for a PhD with at least two years of related teaching experience. The scholar will teach 1.5 courses per term in electronic literature or digital media aesthestics courses at the undergraduate and graduate level with 50% research time, and will have the opportunity to participate in the European ‘Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice” (ELMCIP) HERA research project events. We will also facilitate lecture visits to other European institutions. The pay is 25,000 NOK per month, and travel expenses are covered by the Fulbright. Although the cost of living in Norway is high, the cost of housing, work-related travel and meals are tax-deductible for the scholar. Travel expenses for dependents are not covered, but there is an allowance of 2000 NOK per month per dependent. Depending on needs and expertise, courses the scholar might teach include DIKULT103: Digital Genres: Digital Art, Electronic Literature and Computer Games; DIKUL105: Web Design; DIKULT203: Electronic Literature; DIKULT251: Critical Perspectives on Information Technologies and Society; DIKULT303: Digital Media Aesthetics; or DIKULT304: Graduate Seminar: Topics in Digital Culture. The position is available either for a semester (5 months) or a year (10 months). A letter of invitation is recommended. If you know anyone who might be interested, they should get in touch with me via the address in the advertisement.

IF Purple Blurb today

from Post Position
by @ 11:41 am

A last-minute reminder for you local Post Position readers: Emily Short and Jeremy Freese are reading from their interactive fiction work today in MIT’s room 14E-310 at 5:30pm. Hope to see you there!

March 26, 2010

Beyond the Screen, Reading Moving Letters, and more!

Beyond The Screen
Reading Moving Letters

I have lots of book news to share. The quick news is that Kotaku’s running an excerpt from Expressive Processing and MIT Press has now published a paperback of Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media — taking the price down to around $15 at online booksellers.

March 20, 2010

We Cured Unix – Now What?

from Post Position
by @ 8:17 am

I’m here at LibrePlanet 2010. Although I’m not going to bust out with full-conference liveblogging (that’s so 2005) I do have a quick summary, and a reaction, to today’s opening talk and the ensuing discussion. The presentation was “We’re done cloning Unix, what next?” by John Gilmore, co-founder of the EFF and founder of the “alt” branch of USENET.

March 19, 2010

Play the EISBot

Play against the EISBot! Download here:

THE EISBot in a Protoss versus Terran match

So far, I’ve tested the bot versus the avid StarCraft fanbase. It pulls out a 10% win rate versus hardcore gamers.  Can you beat it? Play it and send me the replay!!!

Note: playing against the EISBot requires two machines capable of playing StarCraft.

Free / Writing / Game Gatherings

from Post Position
by @ 11:38 am

This weekend, I’m attending LibrePlanet, the Free Software Foundation’s conference and hackfest here in Cambridge. I don’t have anything to present or hack upon at this one, but I’ll be listening and learning more about free software and software freedom.

On Tuesday, I head to Grand Forks, ND for the University of North Dakota Writers Conference: Mind the Gap – Print, New Media, Art. The featured authors and artists this year are:

  • Art Spiegelman
  • Frank X. Walker
  • Nick Montfort
  • Cecelia Condit
  • Saul Williams
  • Mark Amerika
  • Stuart Moulthrop
  • Deena Larsen
  • Zeitgeist

Gotta Get Outta this 8-Bit Town

from Post Position
by @ 7:41 am

Brett Camper, who recently presented a great paper on the “fake bit” game La Mulana at Digital Arts and Culture 2009 and whose Comparative Media Studies masters thesis here at MIT was “Homebrew and the Social Construction of Gaming: Community, Creativity and Legal Context of Amateur Game Boy Advance Development,” has an excellent new interactive map of New York City.

It’s called 8-bit NYC,and it looks like this:

March 17, 2010

Musics Are Being Killz0red

from Post Position
by @ 11:03 pm

This was posted on March 12 and yet no more than 22,000 people know about it by now. So, I figured that I’d better mention: Home Taping is Killing Music. (Thanks to Allen on ifmud.) And remember … whenever you violate copyright, God kills a kitten.

Scott Jennings on the Zynga Phenomenon

It doesn't look like the apocolypse

The title: Farmville Killed Gaming, V-Worlds, And Your Dog (tongue-in-cheek)

The premise: “…it seems the talk of GDC 2010 was… Farmville. Specifically, how metrics-driven game design (such as what Farmville uses) will destroy fun as we know it.”

The response: “i take particular exception to your statements about killing dogs. zynga is a dog loving company named after my dearly departed dog zinga.” (Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga)

Other luminaries, such as Raph Koster, wade into the discussion at the comments thread at Broken Toys.

March 16, 2010

Poetry, Games, and Excavating the Creator

from Post Position
by @ 1:59 pm

Who would have guessed that an incredible (and very brief, and very well-illustrated) talk on poetry, videogames, and the relation of the reader/player to the poet/designer’s making would be delivered at GDC by my collaborator Ian Bogost?

Playing the Race Avatar

from Post Position
by @ 1:13 pm

Race in videogames is not an entirely overlooked topic, but mainstreams games, at their best, tend to play, strech, and poke up against stereotypes rather than offering affirming visions of our identities and communities and how they interrelate. So, I was glad read that discussion of this topic “found its way to GDC ‘10,” as noted in the post “What Color is Your Avatar?” in Brainy Gamer. The writeup covers a industry/academic panel at GDC with Manveer Heir, Leigh Alexander, and my colleague here at MIT, Mia Consalvo. Although I wasn’t there, it seems to relate their important points well, and it certainly offers some food for thought.

March 15, 2010

EISBot Shows Potential Versus Human Players

I developed a version of EISBot that plays a specific strategy, known as a 10-15 gate rush. The build was recently made famous by Nony. It is a Protoss build with the goal of harassing your opponent with ranged units as fast as possible and is most commonly used against Terran opponents. This strategy requires a large number of micro-management actions to maximize the efficiency of each unit. This is achieved by attacking enemy units and then backing off.

I tested the bot against several human players on the International Cyber Cup and was surprised to discover that the bot achieved a win rate of over 30% when tested in 40 matches.

Ken Perlin visits UCSC

Ken Perlin, Professor of Computer Science, New York University

Ken is giving a talk titled:

“Graphics, Games, Characters and Touchpads — a tour of recent research”

Date: Tuesday, March 16
Time: 11:00am
Place: E2-180 (The Simularium)


This talk will provide an overview of various recent
research,mincluding Games for Learning, pressure sensitive touch
devices, emotively expressive procedurally animated characters,
intuitive 3D modeling, and ideas about bridging the divide between
programmers and non-programmers.

Ken Perlin's Responsive Face demo.

Ken Perlin's Responsive Face demo.


Art as Process, BASIC Considered Helpful

from Post Position
by @ 2:22 pm

Two quick interruptions to our unscheduled blog hiatus:

Francisco J. Ricardo of RISD’s Digital+Media Department has written a deep and detailed blog post, “From Objecthood to Processhood.” In it, he defends artists, their work, and their discourse about the digital, responding to Henry Jenkins’s 2000 article “Games, the New Lively Art,” which celebrates video games but isn’t as keen on the work of artists. He also describes the transition from a focus on the artwork, an object, to consideration of art as process, concluding with reference to my ppg256 series.

March 12, 2010

Kevin Dill Talk at UCSC

Master of Orion 3

One of Kevin Dill's game credits: Master of Orion 3

“The Art of Game AI: Sculpting Behavior with Data, Formulas, and Finesse”
Kevin Dill, Lockheed Martin

Date: Monday, March 15
Time: 11:00am – 12:00pm
Place: E2-180 Simularium
Hosted By: Michael Mateas

This lecture will explore the challenges that are involved in constructing believable AI behavior, the mindset that one must adopt to accurately model these behaviors, and the techniques that can be used to construct them. The attendee will leave with a broad summary of how to approach the artistry of constructing artificial behaviors – and will likely have adopted the annoying habit of assigning values and formulas to everything they see around them.

March 11, 2010

EIS Research Demos at GDC

The CNET News article, GDC: What’s next for video game AI?, features demos of EIS research projects delivered at the AI Summit at GDC along with the latest AI demos from Richard Evans and Ian Holmes. The AI Summit session, Experimental Game AI: Live Demos of Innovation, included demos of EIS’s Starcraft agent and The Prom, a system featuring play in social space.

The Prom at GDC's AI Summit.

A demo of The Prom, or Promacolypse, was given by Michael Mateas at GDC's AI Summit.

The Stacraft bot at GDC's AI Summit.

A demo of the Starcraft bot was given at GDC's AI Summit.

March 8, 2010

Epic Game Design Tour

This surprisingly broad lecture on game design was given by Noah Wardrip-Fruin to help students review for the final exam in our Foundations of Interactive Game Design class. However, if you are not one of the 300 students in the class, you might find it quite interesting to share with a friend. Perhaps you know someone who is very serious about games but is a little too attached to their fanboyism to see the bigger picture. Tell them to skip past the first two minutes of class business and jump right into the real intellectual meat.

Global Game Jam recap

global game jam 2010

The Global Game Jam 2010 concluded over 30 days ago, but the treasure trove of indy creations it left behind remains largely unexplored. Then again, how is anyone supposed to review some 1000 games created specifically for an event that shuns any global judging? Who has that kind of time anyway? Certainly not overworked grad students!

But I’m here to tell you, you should try! Among these games you can find some of the most innovative zero-budget designs ever devised in the span of 48 hours and you can see the source code that produced them. I’m writing this review partly in hope of inspiring similar reflections from GGJ enthusiasts and partly in anticipation of our upcoming talk at the GDC Education Summit on this year’s Global Game Jam.

March 6, 2010

CFP: Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE) 2010

AIIDE 2010 has posted a call for papers, just in time to advertise the conference at GDC. The deadline for papers and the industry track is May 16, 2010.

This year AIIDE will also be hosting a StarCraft AI competition!

March 4, 2010

Game Developers Conference: Current TV Features EIS Podcast

Intro: "When I was 5 years old, I had a crush on Super Mario"

EIS was featured on

Game Developers Conference: Current TV Features EIS Podcast

Intro: "When I was 5 years old, I had a crush on Super Mario"

EIS was featured on

March 2, 2010

WoW Armory Data Mining: The Next Generation

The clustering of WoW Feral Druid forms (Bear on top, Cat on bottom)

Over at the Armory Data Mining blog, a plucky computational biology PhD student under the name of Darush has taken a look at some World of Warcraft Armory data and run some fascinating transformations to analyze the number of Druid players that favor bear form vs cat form when they play World of Warcraft. Note that this is inferred from statistics choices, it is not a simple flag that is set in the data itself.

March 1, 2010

EIS Featured in Local News

The group (Copyright Robinson Kuntz/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

EIS is now able to claim “big in Santa Cruz” after being featured in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the local newspaper (I’ve also heard reports of the story being syndicated to the San Jose Mercury News for the wider Bay Area).

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